Seattle’s Canlis pivots once more. This time, to start out ‘Canlis Group Faculty’


In the midst of a global pandemic that continues to cripple the restaurant industry, Mark and Brian Canlis, owners of the near-70-year-old Seattle, “fine dining isn’t what Seattle needs right now,” have consistently held back from dining establishments. As the food industry struggles to stay afloat in an ever-changing landscape, Canlis is leading the way for restaurants seeking alternative business models. Seven months ago, Brian and Mark Canli came up with idea # 1: a drive-thru burger restaurant. Then came a bagel shed, a home delivery service, a CSA box, a BINGO night, a drive-in theater and the crab hut. The Canlis brothers spin so constantly that it looks more like a pirouette.

Now they have done it again, and their next act is a bigger, more complex pivot than filling the upper parking lot with sand for a crab hut. It’s idea no. 10 and they call it “Canlis Community College” and play with the momentum of the beginning of school. The program starts at the end of this week.

Canlis Community College is a six week “semester” of programming with all the school trimmings. There will be classes, field trips, sports, and even a shop selling Canlis-style college clothes. Tuition fees are $ 25. In addition to the food- and wine-focused courses one can expect, there will also be programs exploring Seattle’s history and culture, as well as tips and tricks that skim the surface of homesteading.

While work at Canlis Community College continues, Mark Canlis shows off his Canlis University T-shirt. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

The six-week program’s “Finals Week” culminates in a scavenger hunt not unlike the Canlis menu hunt that captivated the city a decade ago, except this time the grand prize is a $ 5,000 gift certificate for Canlis.

“It’s money in a restaurant that doesn’t exist right now,” says Mark Canlis with a laugh. “We’re offering someone to come in and have a party in Canlis as soon as we open again.”

The goals of the community college are threefold; The most obvious thing is to find a way to help the restaurant keep the lights on. It will also serve as a fundraiser for FareStart and, in particular, help fund the emergency meal program. Third, the Canlis brothers hope that this will “inspire all people to turn to one another”.

The “tuition fee” of US $ 25 unlocks almost all programs, and once a “student” is “enrolled” they can register for all courses. Once expenses (including employee rent and salaries) are covered, the remainder of the tuition fees received will be donated to FareStart. There will also be a button on Canlis’ website that will allow people to donate directly to FareStart.

Since the pandemic began, FareStart has produced 1.3 million emergency meals, or about 46,000 per week, for families in the area.

“We are very excited to be the beneficiary of this program,” said Angela Dunleavy-Stowell, CEO of FareStart. “We anticipate an increase in families suffering from food insecurity this late autumn and winter. We already know that every fifth family is in need.

“The relationship with Canlis and the contribution of the Community College will enable us to keep the program going.”

Once enrolled, students will receive a school card that they can use to sign up for classes, many of which take place in the early evening on YouTube.

“We need a couple of thousand people [to enroll] so that it pays off for everyone, ”says Mark Canlis.

The curriculum includes everything from food and wine classes with an interactive component – watch and watch Canlis chef Brady Williams learn to make soba from Kamonegis Mutsuko Soma, or navigate the wine hall at Safeway with a Canlis sommelier – to what they call Seattle social studies.

This means that one of the Canlis brothers will sit down with experts from the Seattle area from the Seattle Art Museum, MOHAI, KEXP, or Wing Luke Museum to talk about everything from the history of Seattle music to the women who make it Have helped shape Seattle’s art scene.

The idea, Canlis says, was to ask, “Who are the heroes of our history to look back on, the founding fathers of this city with incredible qualities?” And tap these people to teach courses.

To this end, there are darning and home hairstyle classes with experts from Filson and Rudy’s Barbershop, a drum circle with Deep Sea Diver, and morning exercises with dancers from the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Almost everyone who approached her agreed to volunteer their time to teach classes, Canlis says. There will also be a Community for Kids component that will be free to the public even without registration.

Seattle’s Canlis pivots once more. This time, to start out ‘Canlis Group Faculty’

Back at college, Mark, left, and Brian Canlis jump off after working on the Canlis Community College billboard. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Many classes will have an optional food and wine component, and Canlis will also offer a “Cafeteria Food” frozen TV dinner option with dry-aged meatloaf, fried chicken and vegetable lasagna.

While almost every course will be streamed on YouTube, there will also be socially distant options for getting people out of their homes. Students can register to play pickleball in the Canlis parking lot or (practically) compete for space on exclusive small-group excursions that tentatively cover everything from throwing football with a Seahawks player to a helmet tour of the new Kraken Arena to kite will include flying in Gasworks Park and bird watching.

Due to COVID-19 and King County’s current health guidelines, most excursions are limited to 4-5 people. Prices are set “based on exclusivity and demand,” according to Canlis, but expect a range of $ 50 to $ 250, with 100% of the excursion fee going to FareStart.

(For those concerned about social distancing, the excursions “sound like an activity similar to guided outdoor recreation permitted with masks and distancing,” wrote Governor Jay Inslee’s press secretary Mike Faulk in an E. -Mail.)

By the way, maybe you should be careful in class.

The last scavenger hunt’s clues are taken from weeks of programming, but Canlis insists that he doesn’t want to force people “to think they have to take all 40 odd grades”.

Canlis hopes this will be “an idea, a model, maybe a permit for companies to think beyond the boundaries they would normally think of. And that includes profitability. “

“I think a pandemic is a really interesting moment. It’s a great time to ask how much money do we need to make right now? “Said Canlis. “We live a privileged life. … I don’t know Canli’s job is to make money in the seventh month of a pandemic. Our goal is not to make money, but to inspire people.

“The pandemic has exposed the backstory of this place a little. Mom and Dad had this heart in the 70s, it’s what drives the company behind the scenes all along. Now is a good time to study, so we’re going back to school. ”

Jackie Variano
covers the food scene in the neighborhoods around Seattle. She loves digging into stories that discuss why we eat the things we do – and when – in our region and beyond. You can reach her at On Twitter: @JackieVarriano.